A gorgeous, dense, and consistently intriguing spin on the Coen Brothers film

The Very Best


TV Show

United States of America
Crime, Drama
Dave Foley, David Rysdahl, Jennifer Jason Leigh


Never underestimate the amount of death and depravity that can be stuffed into your humble Midwestern city!

What it's about

An anthology of crime stories set in and around Minnesota, involving ordinary people accidentally becoming involved in clashes between law enforcement and organized crime rings.

The take

Taking the violence and offbeat comedy of the original movie and adding constantly expanding narratives on top of it, Noah Hawley's TV adaptation of Fargo arguably becomes an even richer portrait of the dark side of human nature hiding inside modern, polite society. All four complete seasons of the anthology series (with a fifth currently ongoing at the time of this writing) are an exercise in seeing how many dominoes can topple from a series of mismanaged coincidences. The resulting chaos then becomes more of a reflection on the kind of facades these characters would rather maintain for the sake of some semblance of control.

And perhaps with the exception of the show's ambitious but sluggish fourth season, every Fargo story is dripping in suspense and cinematic polish, with plenty of chilling visuals and intricate music and sound design—not to mention ensemble casts who are almost always at the height of their powers. Each season has at least one stand-out, be it Alison Tolman and Billy Bob Thornton in season one, Carrie Coon and David Thewlis in season three, Ben Whishaw in season four, and practically everybody from season two. These are all actors who understand exactly how to inhabit the world Hawley has deepened, through wry humor and surprising pathos.

What stands out

Everyone seems to have their favorite Fargo story, but for my money, the second outing remains one of the best seasons of TV broadcast on an American network. Stylistically bold and narratively complex right from the beginning, its story of a naive hairdresser and her unassuming butcher husband (an incredible Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons, respectively) getting entangled with a crime family (led by Jean Smart) and the local police (Patrick Wilson and Ted Danson) begins with a UFO sighting and a hit-and-run—and snowballs into a sophisticated sage of betrayal, delusions of the American dream, and the yearning for universal harmony.


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